Latonya is from Brisbane Australia. She has studied Chinese for 5 years. Latonya is now 23 years old, living in Melbourne and working as an acrobat.

Interesting fact: She is a vegetarian.

“Chinese is a bit of a strange language. It’s so different from English, so I’m always inspired to learn new words and phrases because they are really interesting.”

– Latonya Wigginton

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:00] – Latonya works as an acrobat, travelling around and performing. She did some of her acrobat training in China
  • [1:17] – Chinese acrobatics are seen as the top level in the world
  • [1:28] – Latonya studied from Chinese acrobats at the Beijing International Arts School
  • [1:45] – Latonya was an ultra-active child and got into acrobatics at age 12
  • [2:11] – Why did Latonya start learning Chinese?
    • [2:15] – Latonya didn’t speak a word of Mandarin when she first arrived in China and found it difficult to get around, so she realised quickly that she should learn Mandarin if she was going to study in China
    • [2:43] – Latonya began teaching herself, learning one new word per day
    • [2:56] – After six months, Latonya realised that Chinese is a very interesting language and she wanted to continue studying
    • [3:22] – Latonya was 17 when she first arrived in Beijing
    • [3:39] – Latonya originally planned to stay one year to study, but ended up staying a second to perform because she really liked living in Beijing
    • [4:10] – After 2 years, Latonya had good oral Mandarin, but she didn’t begin practicing more formally until she returned to Australia
    • [4:59] – In the future, Latonya wants to do a Master’s degree in international business and Mandarin, and then return to China
  • [5:14] – What has been Latonya’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [5:20] – At first Latonya’s motivation was being able to communicate with her acrobatics coach and with people in everyday life around Beijing
    • [5:41] – Chinese is so different from English and that makes it more interesting to learn
  • [6:03] – Did Latonya ever feel like Chinese was too difficult and she should give up?
    • [6:08] – Yes, Latonya remembers really struggling with tones and Chinese people being unable to understand her, which was discouraging
  • [6:40] – How did Latonya learn Chinese?
    • [6:47] – Latonya used flashcard apps to learn vocabulary grouped by HSK level
    • [7:14] – Latonya watches native Chinese speakers on YouTube with short videos to learn with context
    • [8:05] – Latonya also tries to watch music and movies in Chinese
    • [8:22] – When Latonya first started, her biggest struggle was pronunciation
      • [8:32] – The most helpful things for improving this was practicing with native speakers and not being afraid to make mistakes
      • [8:50] – Latonya also pushed herself to use new words whenever possible to expand her vocabulary
      • [10:53] – Now, Latonya does language exchange with her Chinese friends on WeChat
      • [11:45] – Reading and writing are very difficult still, and Latonya wishes that she would have learned more characters when she was studying new vocabulary instead of just pinyin
      • [12:10] – Latonya uses flashcards and writing repetition to learn new characters
      • [12:30] – Latonya uses a website that posts articles for learners of different reading levels, and then mostly learns writing by typing more than handwriting
      • [13:18] – Victor explains another way to type Chinese besides pinyin called wubi
  • [15:06] – What has been Latonya’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [15:12] – The biggest challenge was the period between 6 months and 1 year of learning because Latonya’s vocabulary was still too small to communicate well even though she had been practicing for a while
      • [15:57] – Latonya persevered by thinking about how much easier life would be if she could speak, as well as not wanting to waste the time and effort she had already put into learning
    • [16:44] – Chinese gets much easier to learn after the beginner stage because the grammar is simple
  • [17:57] – If Latonya were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would she do it?
    • [18:02] – Latonya first started learning out of a Chinese textbook and learned a lot of outdated and irrelevant language, so she wishes she would have started with something more useful
    • [18:55] – Latonya would have started memorizing characters from the start
  • [20:04] – Embarrassing moment: Mistakenly saying the Chinese word for ‘butt’ instead of ‘apple’ at the fruit market
    • [20:10] – When Latonya first learned to say ‘apple’, she accidentally said the word for ‘butt’ instead
    • [21:00] – Mistaking the words for ‘socks’ (and ‘teeth’
  • [21:28] – Most rewarding moment: Surprising Chinese families with speaking Chinese in Australia
    • [21:35] – Working as a children’s entertainer and being able to surprise Chinese families when she can speak with them
  • [22:37] – How does Latonya use her Chinese now?
    • [22:39] – For now Latonya is working on improving her Chinese more and earning more formal qualifications for future opportunities
  • [23:50] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [23:57] – Learning Mandarin has been useful as a sorta party trick, but has also led to some good opportunities and has enabled Latonya to be able to connect with more people
  • [24:52] – A difference between Chinese culture and Latonya’s own culture
    • [24:59] – The Chinese New Year celebrations in China are much more significant than regular new year celebrations in Australia
  • [29:00] – Latonya’s favourite cities in China: Xi’an and Huangshan
    • [29:03] – Latonya really likes Xi’an for it’s history and mix of different cultures
    • [29:22] – Huangshan is a mountainous region and includes the village where ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ was filmed

Latonya’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [34:21] – 打酱油 – Literal translation is buying soy sauce from a popular meme several years ago. Used jokingly to mean “It’s none of my business” or “I don’t care.”
    • 打(dǎ) – strike, hit
    • 酱(jiàng) – jam or paste-like food
    • 油(yòu) – oil, fat

Latonya’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [36:17] – Persevere and find a good language partner as quickly as possible to start using the Chinese you are learning

Connect with Latonya

  • WeChat: Miss_La_Tonya
  • Instagram: miss_la_tonya
  • Acrobatic show in Australia: follow Latonya on Instagram for more details

Resources Mentioned:

  • [10:21] – Memrise (iOS, Google Play): App for flashcards to learn new vocab
  • [10:26] – LingoDeer (iOS, Google Play): Helpful app for beginners to learn with characters and pinyin
  • [30:35] – Decipher Chinese (iOS, Google Play): App that posts news articles about events and history in China that’s great for learning new vocabulary
  • [31:43] – Books Latonya would recommend: (English) Fantasy series by Kylie Chan set in Hong Kong that was very interesting and helped get Latonya excited about moving to China because it talked a lot about classic Chinese tales set in modern times

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